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CJ Sheetmetal Work: Part 2

Posted in How To: Body Chassis on September 27, 2017
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The last time we were in the Quick Draw Jeep Restoration shop we got a first glimpse at the rare CJ-6 Tuxedo Park Mark IV that had just been rolled into the shop. It looked pretty clean at first glance, but this Jeep had been rear-ended, and there were some serious issues that needed to be fixed. The rear of the frame was bent in several spots and the body had buckled slightly in a couple of places. That was the damage from the wreck, but there was also some damage that had to be fixed from the previous “restoration.” Dave and Preston are the father-son operation known as Quick Draw Jeep Restoration in Huntsville, Utah. Sharing generations of experience, it didn’t take these Jeep experts long to discover as much as a 3/8-inch coating of body filler in places.

These guys are making quality bodywork cool again by turning out some factory-perfect Jeep restorations. All of that old iron is showing its age and past abuse, which usually requires some sheetmetal work. Quick Draw recommends that the sheetmetal be sandblasted before any paint job you want done well. A reputable sandblaster with experience in automotive body panels is a must. Too much heat (from friction of the sand on the steel) can warp panels and create more work in the long run. If sandblasting is skipped, then there will be a lot of hand sanding to be done—especially in all of the corners, panel joints, and other nooks and crannies—so that the new paint can properly adhere. Otherwise, your paint will prematurely peel, and that peeling will spread over time. In humid locations it may be a good idea to have the sandblaster epoxy-coat your parts for an additional cost so that the parts do not rust again during the bodywork process. Quick Draw Jeep Restoration is conveniently located in a dry desert climate, so the body was left as bare steel to make panel repair quicker and easier, as the epoxy primer doesn’t need to be removed to do necessary welding. Without further rambling, let’s get on with tips, tricks, and how these pros do sheetmetal right.

All of the secrets are out of the closet once the body parts are back from the sandblaster, and then the real story can be seen. While this Jeep was way more solid than many we have seen in the past, there were still a lot of issues that needed to be addressed. Especially since this restoration was intended to be a perfect example of what rolled out of the factory.
The passenger-side rear fenderwell had a really terrible repair done to it at one point. You can see the booger weld job as well as the corner still pushed up and out of place. The rear fender would need to be removed to properly fix that corner, so it was a no-brainer to just replace the rear fenderwell if it had to be removed anyway.
There are those beautiful factory seams seeing the light of day again. If you recall from our last segment (“Getting Straight: Tips and tricks for Jeep frame repair,” Aug. ’17), there was over 3/8-inch-thick Bondo coating on most of the body, which in turn covered up all of these factory seams. The CJ-6 body was simply a CJ-5 body tub with stretch panels added to achieve the desired CJ-6 length, so if you’re junkyard hunting for CJ-6 body parts, some CJ-5 body parts will work just fine.
This floor may look pristine to some, but there are a lot of pinholes all through this thing. For most restorations it would be perfectly acceptable to weld up what you can, Bondo or Rhino-line the rest, and move on to more important things. Since this particular job is a factory restoration, to do all that work to make it perfect would be more expensive in labor than simply replacing it with a new floor.
Proper panel removal means drilling out all of the factory spot welds. Oftentimes you can’t see these spot welds. A simple and effective trick is to use a little bit of sandpaper and do a quick rubdown of the seam. Those spot welds will appear like magic!
A special spot weld drill bit is used along with a standard centering punch. The pro’s tip here is that when you see some brown rust debris come out of the drill hole, you are through the spot weld and can stop. Don’t go through all of the panels. You can see the brown rust indicator on all of the spot welds that have already been drilled along the seam in this shot.
When the spot welds cannot be reached, it is okay to spin up the grinder with a cut-off wheel and get to work. Once the main part of the panel is out of the way, you can go back to drill out the spot welds and remove what is left of the factory flange.
After the spot welds are drilled, using a hammer and chisel is one method to separate the seams. After that, the fenderwell can be removed.
The rear floor section was not just spot welded to the CJ-6 extension panel in front of it. From the factory, the rear floorpan was first hooked onto the mid-floor brace and welded, and then the mid-floor panel was installed and welded over top of the rear floor. The rear floor had to be cut away so that the other spot welds could be accessed. Don’t get too rough and just start ripping things out if they don’t come out easy. There’s a chance you missed some welds somewhere. Do some investigation and form a plan of attack.
Once out of the way, the rest of the spot welds were drilled and the flange removed.
Now that all of the old stuff was out of the way, the new pieces were prepped for installation. Even though these are new panels, there are always some dings from shipping that need to be worked out. We made quick work on this rear floor section with a body hammer and dolly.
All of the new sheetmetal panels were sourced from Classic Enterprises and are hand-signed by the master craftsman who did the work. Made right here in the USA, these guys manufacture just about any part you could need to restore or repair whatever Jeep you are working on.
The CJ-6 was basically a CJ-5 that Jeep added some extension panels to in order to achieve the longer length. This rear bed section will fit either a CJ-5 or a CJ-6. A little known fact is that the CJ-6 rear floor sections had two extra ribs added for strength. The Jeep designers knew that the CJ-6’s larger cargo area meant it would have more of a utility/hauling function.
When possible, a basic spot welding machine is used. It does a great job of leaving factory-type spot welds in the right places. To the purist, it’s just not a Jeep if the spot welds can’t be seen through the paint in certain places, like along the rear fenderwells and cargo area.
In areas that the spot welder won’t reach, a hole is drilled the same diameter that a normal spot weld would be. Only the top layer is penetrated. The hole does not go through both pieces. The hole that was drilled is then spot welded with an MIG gun.
It’s difficult to tell which welds were done by the spot welder and which ones were drilled holes filled in by the MIG welder. That’s the idea! They look about the same with a little practice. Clamping the work pieces together in place is crucial for a quality final product.
While Preston was getting the rear floorpan put together, Dave was hard at work getting the new passenger-side rear wheelwell in place. Nothing is welded in place at first. Instead, Quick Draw Jeep Restoration uses self-tapping sheetmetal screws to hold everything in place to start. Once all of the major pieces are in place and triple-checked for proper placement, then the welding starts to happen.
Over the years that the CJ-5 and CJ-6 Jeeps were made, there were different stamping suppliers and slightly different configurations of the details. The factory fender (left) has the rear mounting flange bent upward, while the replacement (right) has the rear mounting flange bent downward along the entire outer rim of the fender. Comparing a few other CJ-5s that were around the property, we confirmed that the replacement fender with the bent down flange was more widely used from the factory. It just didn’t match in this case.
That difference in the rear mounting flange just didn’t meet the standards for quality that Quick Draw Jeep Restoration strives for. Dave got right to work massaging the flange upward to match what came from the factory on this particular Jeep.
Now that the rear fender was in place, the floor could go in. Vise grips, clamps, and sheetmetal screws held it all together for a bit.
The new passenger-side rear fender had to be moved several times after the floor was put in. That’s the whole reason for piecing it all together with clamps and sheetmetal screws prior to welding. The biggest trick to this whole process is to not weld anything until everything is exactly where you intend for it to stay. Close the door for the night and come back the next day to double-check your work with a clear mind and rested eyes before welding any of it.
The rear body support and tailgate flange assembly squares everything up nicely. If you notice at the bottom of the wheelwell there has been some welding done once the floor and fenders all jived together.
Small sheetmetal butt-joint clamps are the perfect tools to make sure that the new panel is perfectly lined up with the original sheetmetal. These clamps also hold the piece in place and prevent it from warping during welding.
Quick Draw Jeep Restoration has an extensive library of original service manuals, advertisements, serial number logs, and other Jeep-related literature to help them complete the job better than the factory.
There are some support channels that stiffen almost every Jeep body made. This “hat channel” was in good shape, but the floorpan needed some love. With a little finesse it was possible to remove the piece of the floorpan without disturbing the hat channel. The channel was cleaned using a wire wheel and die grinder, and then coated with some quality weld-through primer to prevent any future corrosion before the new floor patch was welded in place.

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